Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Tarot and Dreams

A friend, F, asked me recently whether I'd written about dreams in my blog, and I said no. However, it reminded me of a technique advocated by Rachel Pollack to explore dreams. So, I decided to share that here.

The basic idea is to draw cards to help clarify or remember the dream. Rachel suggests outlining the parts or events of the dream you remember and then drawing a card for each one. An alternative, along Gestalt lines, would be to draw a card for different elements, objects or people in the dream.  I think tarot and dreams are, in many ways, a particularly good fit.  Both are what Freud termed "overdetermined", that is, both can represent more than one thing or person at one and the same time.  Like the image of a woman in your dream who you know is your sister, but is also your friend, and then morphs into yourself, the tarot images lend themselves to being interpreted from a number of different angles.

To demonstrate what I mean, I thought of a dream I have had repeatedly, which I find disturbing and don't really understand.  Dividing it up, I came up with the following events:

1) I am being chased.
2) I have to make big jumps down stairways like parkour/freerunning a la opening sequence of Casino Royale.
3) When my pursuer catches me I feel forced to turn and murder them.
4) Although it makes me feel sick, I turn the blade in their flesh to be sure to stop them.

I also decided to draw an additional card as a summary for what is going on for me to have this dream recur.  Given that this reading is on dreams, I felt it appropriate to use Ciro Marchetti's Tarot of Dreams and used the iPhone app, so I could send myself an image of the reading to add to this post (gotta love technology).

1) Being chased - Five of Coins

This card often denotes a time of hardship, but with the promise of a brighter future if we can raise our eyes from our begging bowl and see the spiritual riches available to us.  As such, I see it suggesting that my view has been too narrow and fixed. There is a sense of feeling like everything is hard, but perhaps that view is skewed and if I could change my attitude, the situation would suddenly look very different.  Perhaps also a suggestion that being chased might encourage me to look a little further, try something new.

2) Parkour-style jumping - Two of Wands

This card has a somewhat magical feel to it.  Often seen as being a gateway and a choice, this makes me think about the fact that, in responding to being chased, I don't just run, or run as though through toffee.  Instead, I leap and bound in a way that has similarities to flying.  Perhaps this is an encouragement to myself to think outside of the box when faced with problems, to dare to try something risky rather than playing it safe.  So, the choice here is to carry on as I have always done, or to take a chance on changing things, even if that is scary.

3) Murdering my pursuer - Two of Cups

Now here's an interesting card for this position.  The Two of Cups is traditionally taken to represent a close relationship, new love, a partnership of some kind, and seeing eye to eye.  How much further could this be from murder?  And yet, looking at the image, what I see is that both the two cups and the two swans are mirror images of one another.  This reminds me of the Gestalt notion that everything and everyone in your dreams represents an aspect of yourself.  So, I turn and murder myself, I destroy the part of me that feels persecutory, that hounds me and doesn't let me rest or act freely.  The part of me that has found I can jump far further and more daringly than I believed possible negates the part of me that wants to trap and control it. 

I also like the synchronicity of the Two's here - first I find and choose my magical, creative, daring spark in the Two of Wands, then I recognise that I have to make a choice between two aspects of myself, and kill the side that doesn't work towards growth and opportunity.  In murdering the aspect that is chasing, I am embracing the part of me that dares to do something different.

4) Twisting the blade - XIII - Death

The only card of the Major Arcana in this reading, in the position of twisting the blade to be sure to kill my pursuer, and it's Death.  How very a propos!  In this version we see a snake, symbol of transformation.  Only by being sure to fully destroy the entrapping, limiting part of myself can I allow myself to move towards the part of me that is more free, daring and open to possibility.  Perhaps the reason why it makes me feel sick is because it's scary to give up a part of myself that I know well, that I have relied on for years.  I don't like that I have to go to such extremes, either, but entropy fights so strongly I need a powerful response or else I will fall back into the narrow confines of my tried and tested way of doing things, closed down to wider possibilities. 

Another common suggestion with the Death card is the need to mourn what is being said goodbye to.  And maybe there's an aspect of that here.  A need to acknowledge what I am letting go, so that I can move forward with eyes open and unencumbered.

5) Summary - Six of Coins

Interestingly, from the Five of Coins at the start of the reading we now move on to the Six, a clear sense of progression.  The Six of Coins shows someone weighing up their resources and then freely giving some of them away.  Here I see the echo of the message about giving away/killing a part of me that I don't want or need.  Also, the sense of having enough without it. 

What the figure offers up is the symbol for Libra, the scales, balance.  Despite being an air sign, Libra is considered a fiery, fiesty sign, standing up for what it judges to be right.  That is what this card offers me.  So, this dream is an encouragement to give up old ways that are no longer helpful for me, and to move towards what I now believe to be worthwhile.  Taking a risk and leaving behind previous patterns of behaviour may not be easy, but it does offer the chance to be authentic to what I now believe.

In this particular version of the card, the offer is being made, but hasn't yet been accepted unlike some versions where coins are in the hands of different people.  This suggests to me that one reason why this dream has recurred several times is that I haven't yet taken on board its message.  Let's see whether, after analysing it like this, it comes back again or not...

How often do you remember your dreams?  Do you think they hold a message, or are they just random neurons firing?  Can you imagine using this technique?  

Images: Judgement from the Ancestral Path Tarot by Julia Cuccia-Watts, spread from Ciro Marchetti's Tarot of Dreams app.


  1. I LOVE this post. I've always been aware that they mean something but have only recently taken a new view of my dreams.

    I can still remember reoccuring dreams from my past. After looking up meanings for these dreams, I realized that they actually did mean something and it would have been helpful to know their meanings then.

    I now write down my dreams as often as I can, but I do have a time with interpreting them.

    This spread may very well be the answer to that. You did a great job here with the reading and it reveals so much.

    I believe you uncovered the meaning of your dream and now that you see the message you should quit having it. Dreams come from your unconscious mind (spirit guides,, possibly). Now that you've listened, this particular message has been received. Rather you act upon it is your choice. (That's my two cents on dreams. :))

  2. Thanks, Cher, glad you got something from it. I've always found dreams very meaningful, and am constantly curious about different ways of approaching them. I'll look forward to reading about how you make out with this spread, too :-)

  3. I'll be sure to post something on my blog when I get the time to test this out.

    I'm doing the Muse Conference this week, so all I'll be doing is eating, sleeping, writing and going to work. Then I'll probably have to take a couple of days of down time to recover, lol.

    Best wishes,

  4. I'd never heard of the Muse Conference. Is it with a particular writing goal in mind (thinking of NaNoWriMo)? Hope you enjoy it, and I'll keep my eyes peeled on your blog (do anyhow) ;-)

  5. It's a writers conference online and it's free. There's multiple courses to take and chances to pitch your manuscript to publishers. It last for a week. http://themuseonlinewritersconference.com/
    Thanks for following the blog. I enjoy your comments. If it wasn't for you and sitemeter (reporting how many visitors I have a day), I'd think I was alone, lol.

    Best wishes,